The 22-year-old hiker who fell to her death Wednesday afternoon in Kaaawa was identified as 2012 Moanalua High School soccer standout Kaisha Chu.
Chu, a graduate student at Seattle University, was home for winter break, and word of her death quickly spread among her many friends, former teammates and coaches.
“She was just a kind, loving and sweet person,” said friend Tiana Fujimoto, who played AYSO, club and high school soccer with her since the age of about 7. “She brightens up your day when she talked to you,” she said, choking back tears.
“On field she was a go-getter, pretty good in her leadership role,” she said. “She was always there for her teammates. She was just an all-around good person. … I can’t put my memories to words right now. Everyone loved her.”
Chu was hiking with two friends on the Puu Manamana Trail, also known as Crouching Lion Trail, when she fell, a fire official said. Fire rescue personnel were dispatched Wednesday at about 4:50 p.m. Fellow hikers said she fell about 200 feet and landed in an area where she could no longer be seen.
Friends said she loved the outdoors and that hiking was a “true passion of hers.”
Storm Kenui, another longtime friend through soccer, said, “The two people who were there sadly saw the whole thing happen,” she said. “She loved going on long hikes. She was very adventurous. She was a very daring person, for sure.”
Chu started all four years while on the Moanalua High School girls soccer team. She made the 2012 OIA East second team and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s 2012 All-State second team. In 2012, her senior year, Moanalua became OIA champion, the most recent time the school won the OIA.
She earned a soccer scholarship to Hawaii Pacific University, where she majored in criminal justice, said Moanalua High School coach Nikki Dela Pena, who coached her all four years.
Chu served as team captain, and “during a highly competitive situation was the voice you would hear in the back and would talk to the girls,” Dela Pena said. She also offered suggestions and strategies in a respectful manner to the coaches, who welcomed her ideas.
“She was a true competitor,” Dela Pena said. “She wasn’t one to allow opportunities to go by. … She just represented herself as a true student athlete.
“She had a smile and a charisma about her,” she said. “As a freshman she came bringing so much to offer to the team, carrying on a leadership role. … She was a go-getter-type person. She definitely gave it her all. She had a good heart for her teammates.”
She played outside defender and “was very quick. She just had an eye for the ball,” Dela Pena said, adding that playing club soccer and high school contributed to her playing at the collegiate level.
Chu would come back often to visit Dela Pena, sharing how she was majoring in criminal justice at HPU and Seattle University. They joked she would be on the TV show “CSI,” she said.
Dela Pena credits Chu’s parents’ involvement in her life. “They raised such a great daughter,” she said, adding that she was always involved in community service and school service projects and got her teammates to participate.
Both Fujimoto and Kenui went on to play soccer at the University of Hawaii, and recall they played against Chu in scrimmages.
“I would always laugh,” said Kenui, who practiced together with her since the age of 4. “She was a defender and I was offensive. She would always win somehow. It was funny playing against her.”
Club coach Eric Tamashiro said Chu, at 10 or 11, was always a good soccer player.
“Kaisha had her ups and downs, but she she always kept persevering,” he said. “She loved the game. She just kept striving to be better, and that’s why she ended up playing college soccer.”
Tamashiro said, “Her parents were the most supportive people, always there for her. My heart really goes out to them.”
The Puu Manamana Trail is not a state trail, but has gained popularity with several YouTube videos taken with GoPro cameras and selfie sticks, and there are extensive descriptions online that call it one of the most dangerous hikes on Oahu with sections of its extremely narrow ridgeline trails.
Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club members hike the trail.
HTMC member Charlotte Yamane, 74, said: “Our club has been going every year for years. Everybody has been hiking safely with the club, but these young kids just show off and instead of hiking carefully they hop, skip and jump across these narrow ridges.
“You can’t do that. You have to walk slowly and carefully,” she said. She blames social media with videos of people hiking on the trail.
“They want to show they’re not scared, so they just walk any kind.”
Chu’s family could not be reached for comment.